by Robert Doctor –
Hope takes place in the present but addresses the future. It suggests that I’ve got what it takes to surmount my difficulties. It says: “I believe my current strength is sufficient to carry me through.” It’s a point of view–an orientation of self in relation to environmental challenges. It says things can be better.
Hope implies an optimistic spirit. Its resources are internal. It suggests that individuals who have it believe they are able to sufficiently control aspects of themselves and their world to forge ahead successfully.
Hope has prerequisites. It’s not automatic. It’s not the product of effort. It’s the product of an attitude– a predisposition to relate to the world with an optimistic, internally controlled mind-set. When you feel immersed in some kind of trouble or disappointment when dark clouds are on the horizon or grief’s pain engulfs –this attitudinal set whispers: “Everything’s okay. I’m gonna make it. I can handle it–God is still in charge.”
Paul gives us an idea of these prerequisites. He says we “rejoice in our suffering.” Peterson’s paraphrase suggests that we “continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in by troubles.” Paul says: “suffering produces perseverance,” or as Peterson describes it: “passionate patience.” Perseverance produces “character” or “the tempered steel of virtue”; and character leads to “hope.” Then Paul adds: “… and hope does not disappoint …”
Jim Wallis, in his still timely book, The Soul of Politics, identifies hope as the final and capstone “sign” that a new prophetic vision is emerging within our society. He writes of a defiant hope he observed around the world. Quoting Nelson Mandela he writes: “… there is a God who presides over the affairs of history, who vetoes the schemes of evil people, and who decrees that truth crushed to the ground shall rise again.”
Wallis speaks of “salvation events” – “happenings filled with the pregnant promise of freedom, justice, liberation, peace, and reconciliation. They break the yoke of oppression while offering a healing balm to deep wounds. They testify to God’s purposes and will for the earth.”
Hope, then, is a spiritual matter. It’s a challenge to faith. When articulated, it’s also the identification of a goal. If we hope that somehow our world will abandon our tribal needs for separation and exclusion, we must first recognize that we are the world– that if we hope for the elimination of poverty, for the absence of hate, for the eradication of racism and ethnocentrism, for the end of stereotyping the “other,” for an open invitation to inclusion and membership to those pushed to the margins, denied opportunity and isolated–that if we hope for these things we have the responsibility to exercise our will–to move, to act, to speak, to lead.
Hope is a lot more than a feeling or a mood. Wallis says: “Hope is the engine of change–the energy of transformation–the door from one reality to another.” Often, for the pessimist, hope is seen as nonsense, as stupid, as frivolous. Who would have ever believed that the bloody footprints of George Washington’s army would form a trail to victory over the might of Britain. Who would ever believe that President John Kennedy’s goal to “put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth in less than a decade” could ever come true. “Ridiculous nonsense,” the critics said of William Booth when he organized a salvation army and gave it a name by capitalizing the letters of those words. “What grandiosity – what ego – what a stupidity.” He made noise about oppressed people, about sexual slavery, about poverty, joblessness, addiction, hate, a class system that kept most of the population subservient. His hope opened the door to social and spiritual change for millions. Each conversion was a personal “salvation event.”
We need more “salvation events” today. We’re too busy simply implementing the status quo. Let’s start believing that some big things can happen – and then, let’s be about the business of walking through that door and making that hope a reality. We need some Joan Kroc type of hope.
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar
on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they
will walk and not faint.
I don’t know about you, “but as for me, I will always have hope.”